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BYU Cougars’ upset bid of No. 4 Kansas falls short in semifinals of Maui Jim Maui Invitational

In the second half, Kansas started flexing its muscles and turning up the defensive pressure, orchestrating a decisive 21-4 run and, in the end, cruised past BYU, 71-56, at the Lahaina Civic Center. 

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) looks to shoot between BYU forward Kolby Lee (40) and guard Zac Seljaas (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019, in Lahaina, Hawaii.
Marco Garcia, AP

LAHAINA, Hawaii — On a night that saw No. 1 Duke fall to Stephen F. Austin and a week that saw No. 3 Michigan State go down to Virginia Tech, in this same gym, it appeared No. 4 Kansas could be in some trouble in the first half against BYU Tuesday in the Maui Invitational semifinals.

The Jayhawks held a slim 29-27 lead at halftime and the Cougars were hanging in there with the Big 12 power.

But in the second half, Kansas started flexing its muscles and turning up the defensive pressure, orchestrating a decisive 21-4 run and, in the end, cruised past BYU, 71-56, at the Lahaina Civic Center.

“We were excited for the opportunity to compete against Kansas. They’re a good team, they’re physical and they’re well-coached,” said Cougar coach Mark Pope. “We just couldn’t answer the bell in the second half.”

“That was a hard team to guard,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of BYU. “Early in the game, they had us on our heels.”

But once his team locked in defensively, Self liked what he saw.

“That was fun for me to watch from a defensive standpoint,” he said. “We’re pretty athletic on the perimeter. It was important to pressure the ball. Maybe not to deny so much because they back cut so much. They run a lot of great stuff. Mark’s terrific in getting a lot of ball movement. I thought our switches were better and our ball screen defense was much better.”

With the victory, Kansas (5-1) advanced to Wednesday’s Maui Invitational championship game against Dayton, which thumped Virginia Tech, 89-62, earlier Tuesday.

The Cougars (4-3) will square off against Virginia Tech Wednesday (9:30 p.m. MST, ESPN2), with the winner claiming third place in the tournament.

TJ Haws led BYU with 16 points on 6 of 14 shooting from the field and dished out five assists. Kolby Lee finished with 13 points on 6 of 8 shooting.

As a team, the Cougars shot just 9 of 33 (27%) from 3-point range, including 4 of 16 in the second half. BYU missed its first eight 3-pointers in the second half.

“Defensively, they make it really hard for an offense to run their stuff,” said forward Dalton Nixon. “There were times when we got good looks and we just couldn’t hit those shots, the shots you need to hit to beat a top 5 team like that. They’re really aggressive and really intense defensively.”

“They’re a great team, obviously,” Lee said. “They’re one of the top teams in the nation for a reason. They’re athletic and long. They’re a great defensive team.”

The Cougars also had 20 turnovers and Kansas scored 17 points off those turnovers.

The Jayhaws, who led by as many as 20 in the second half, had four players score in double figures — David McCormack (16 points), Ochai Agbaji (14), Devon Dotson (13) and Udoka Azubuike (11). Azubuike also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.

Kansas outscored the Cougars in the paint 42-18.

“We used our size,” said McCormack.

Both BYU and Kansas endured long scoring droughts in the first half. The Jayhawks went more than six minutes without a basket, while the Cougars went eight minutes without scoring.

Both teams missed a flurry of shots and were turnover-happy during those stretches.

“Today was one of those games that reminded me of a Big 10 game in that it was a grind-it-out, no offensive flow for both teams,” Self said. “The game was played fast enough that you thought both teams could score 80 or 90 (points). Then you looked at the score at halftime and it was 29-27. It’s one of those games where you don’t play great and you look up and you’re still ahead.”

A goaltending call against Kansas on a Lee layup with 2:03 left in the first half gave BYU its first points since a free throw by Zac Seljaas at the 9:52 mark. The Cougars missed nine consecutive shots during that span.

The most that BYU trailed by in the first half was six points, 27-21. Then Lee and Haws closed out the half by knocking down 3-pointers.